Beautifully situated overlooking the town and the Yass River, CLIFTONWOOD was built by John Watson, CIRCA 1841, on land owned by Hamilton Hume. Watson and his wife were the first residents. After Hume's death in 1873, his widow Elizabeth and her two sisters lived in the house. From 1902 - 1948, Cliftonwood belonged to the Shaw family.
The present owners have been at Cliftonwood since 1948. The present owner's mother Ivy Wade, who had lived at Cliftonwood for over 62 years, passed away April 2011. The current owner has taken on the task of preserving and restoring this historic property.
The HOUSE is of solid double brick construction. The hipped roof still has the original shingles under the more recent corrugated iron sheets. The "new" front of the house was added in 1876 as is evidenced by the cast iron verandah pillars stamped "Trigg, Marr & Taylor 1876”. The cedar front door is original but it has been painted. The glass is probably new. Throughout the front section note the original cedar joinery and the high ceilings (13 feet or nearly 4 metres) which gives a spacious feeling. Interior walls are plaster over solid brick.
In the ENTRANCE HALL note the collection of hats belonging to the owner's father and grandfather. On either side of the entrance hall the large reception rooms each have a bay window to the verandah. The room on the northern side was possibly the original DINING room. It has a large fireplace with surround and mantel. The butler's bell pull has been detached for restoration. Note photos and history of the three families who have lived here since 1840, HUME, SHAW and WADE. The large desk belonged to the current owner's grandfather and has 8/3/1910 in pencil inside the top drawer.
The room on the southern side of the hall was possibly the DRAWING ROOM. The fireplace with surround and mantel and the window pelmets are original. Beside the fireplace the original full length silk butler's bell pull still survives in a fragile state. Note the photo of Mary (Granny) Davis' aged 113, an ancestor of the owner. Reputedly, Mary was the first white woman across the Great Dividing Range and also the first to give birth over the Great Dividing Range. There are also photos of Elizabeth Hume and the Shaw family.
An arched green baize-covered doorway in the hall leads to the oldest part of the house comprising a FAMILY/DINING ROOM and renovated KITCHEN with aluminium windows which was originally another bedroom. French doors lead to the side verandah. Throughout this area there is a wonderful collection of paintings by the owner's mother, Ivy Wade. Note also the illustration of "Australian Birds 1879" by Miss Nellie Wade, the owner's great aunt, who was a pupil at the Convent Select School. A verandah runs along the back of the house leading to the back courtyard.
The FLAGSTONE courtyard at the back of the house has outbuildings on either side. In the centre is the original WELL. In the early days water was hand pumped into an overhead tank to supply the house. Looking back towards the house, above the verandah the original SERVANTS' BELLS can be seen.
The main outbuilding known as the SERVANTS QUARTERS contains the original kitchen, dairy, laundry and maid's room and is built of local red brick, tuck pointed. The vernadah running the full length of the building originally had a board floor but this was covered with concrete about 50 years ago.
Typical of early houses the original KITCHEN was quite separate from the main house to guard against the danger of fire. The open cooking fire and original fuel stove and iron cooking pots remain and the current owner remembers that as a small boy he would sit cosily beside the fire on a cold Yass night while his mother cooked over the fire. In the old days, food from the kitchen was taken along the covered walkway to the back verandah and passed through a servery into the dining room. There are still jars of preserves in the old pantry. A maid in period costume will be showing old kitchen wares.
The LAUNDRY originally had a red brick floor, now concreted over, but the old copper and tubs remain. The MAID'S ROOM has an old iron bed end and family pram. There is a child's sit-on Mobo horse which is about 60 years old.
A beautiful BLUE STONE building on the other side of the courtyard consists of two rooms, one with a fireplace, possibly used for guests. There are timber ceilings, and a lattice screen feature on the verandah. Note the large collection of news clippings of Field Days held at Cliftonwood.
Watson, who built Cliftonwood, and Hume were partners in a steam mill located below the house on the Yass River. The mill known as Watson's Mill seems to have operated until it was destroyed in a flood in 1870 and Watson returned to England. Grain for the mill was stored in WATSON'S BOTTLE, a huge 8 metre-deep underground grain storage tank, dug into the slight rise behind Cliftonwood. Built by convicts in the 1840's it is constructed of blue granite rock walls, with 40 rows of bricks forming the dome. The dome is topped by sandstone blocks carved to form a perfect circle fixed by a key stone. The owners believe that the sacks of grain would be hoisted from the Bottle by tackle pulled by a horse and the grain taken to the mill.
The large STABLE building consists of a three horse stable with original cobblestone floor, a coach house, TACK room with original saddler, two large sheds possibly used by the farrier and blacksmith. Above the stable is a large attic with a landing for unloading hay on the northern end. Sheaves of hay were stored in the attic for horse fodder.